Architect Jan Gehl returns to Sydney seeing his grand vision come to life

Architect Jan Gehl returns to Sydney seeing his grand vision come to life
Image: Renowned Danish architect, Jan Gehl, in Sydney. Image: Abril Felman/City of Sydney


Danish architect Jan Gehl has finally seen the transformation of Sydney CBD, 16 years after submitting his grand vision for the City of Sydney.

The world-renowned urbanist was commissioned in 2007 to produce the City’s ​​Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan. Gehl’s plans laid the groundwork for George Street’s massive transformation, including the 18,000 square metres of open space and the Light Rail to connect the CBD.

On Friday, November 17, Gehl returned to see his initial plans have come to life and reminisced on the city’s transformed landscape.

“A great change”

Taking inspiration from international city designs and his book Public Spaces and Public Life, Gehl’s designs articulate the significance of more public spaces.

In order to produce more public space and make a “well-functioning city,” Gehl plans included the light rail, pedestrian corridors and establishing the town squares. His initial plans, outlined in the Sustainable Sydney, has shifted the City to become more inclusive and sustainable.

“A good city is like a good party,” said Gehl. “People stay longer than really necessary because they are enjoying themselves.”

“After being invaded by cars and traffic for 50 years we’re now seeing many examples of cities being reconquered for people,” he explained.

Travelling down the now-established CBD Light Rail system, Gehl described his pleasure of seeing the city’s transformation, saying “George Street is a great change.”

“If you see a city with many children and many old people using the city’s public spaces it’s a sign that it’s a good quality place for people,” he continued.

Lord Mayor to preserve with plans

Joining Gehl’s visit, Lord Mayor Clover Moore expressed gratitude to Gehl’s plans which she has seen gradually implemented since her first term as Lord Mayor.

“Jan Gehl’s contribution to the transformation of Sydney’s city centre is unparalleled,” said Mayor Moore.

“We have come a long way since 2007 when Jan Gehl said Sydney had turned its back on the harbour, and that it was at breaking point, unable to cope with traffic volumes and gradually being choked in fumes and noise.

City of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, and Architect, Jan Gehl, on the George Street Light Rail. Image: Lord Mayor Clover Moore/Facebook.

Recalling the city before 2007 being at its “breaking point,” Mayor Moore and Council requested Gehl’s “vision and strategy” to help achieve a “long-term” plan for Sydney.

“When we saw Public Spaces and Public Life, featuring George Street as a 2.5-kilometre pedestrian boulevard with light rail as its centrepiece and three large civic squares, pedestrian and cycling networks, green connections and revitalised laneways, I knew we had our vision,” Mayor Moore explained.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realise Sydney’s potential as a green, global and connected city and a city for people, and we did so together.”

“Once a noisy, polluted traffic jam, Sydney’s central spine is now the people-friendly, tree-lined boulevard you’d expect in an international city,” she continued.

Mayor Moore expresses her anticipation for further developments in following Gehl’s plans, including the establishment of the Central Station and Circular Quay public squares, and outdoor living spaces at Town Hall.

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